Utah Jazz continue work of sizing up players at NBA draft combine
Charles Rex Arbogast, AP
CHICAGO — Dante Exum did not pretend to know a single thing about life in Utah, but he can be forgiven.
Exum is, after all, the 2014 NBA draft’s international man of mystery, an 18-year-old Australian who has skyrocketed near the top of everybody’s mock board despite not playing college basketball in the United States.
Like the rest of the expected lottery picks, Exum did not participate in drills at the NBA draft combine Thursday.
But unlike the only players most expect to be taken ahead of him, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Exum was on hand to be poked and prodded — at least by the media.
The Jazz will have the No. 4 spot in the lottery Tuesday night, meaning they could pick anywhere from one through seven in the June 26 draft and theoretically be in position to select the 6-foot-6 point guard.
Exum said he didn’t get a chance to watch many NBA games in Australia, but he knows enough about the Jazz to wonder if he’d be a good fit.
“They’ve got the young guard, Trey Burke,” Exum said. “I’m not too sure what they see with me in their kind of setup. It will be interesting to see and hear what they have to say.”
Exum is scheduled to meet with Jazz brass here before week’s end.
While few in the states have actually seen Exum play live, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said Wednesday that “we’ve done our work and we feel very comfortable with the level of diligence.”
Point guard obviously isn’t a position of need following the 21-year-old Burke’s promising rookie season, but the rebuilding Jazz could opt to simply take the best player available.
“At this stage you’re always balancing best player versus need and you’re tiering players,” Lindsey said. “The majority of drafts I’ve been involved with have been best player. There have been a few where specific need trumps a player we had a slightly higher tier on.”
Julius Randle is a player frequently linked to the Jazz in the mock-draft-o-sphere.
The Kentucky freshman, who measured in at 6 foot, 7 3/4 inches without shoes, has already met with the Jazz this week and is open to the idea of working out for the team in Utah after the lottery.
“We’ll see how the lottery falls,” said Randle, who is expected to be taken in the top half of the lottery. “I don’t know where I’m going to go work out yet, but they’re definitely a team I’m interested in. I know they have a lot of great young talent, good young bigs, a good point guard, Trey Burke. It is a young team.”
Randle, who’s from Texas, said he doesn’t know much about Utah, but he is familiar with Jazz history.
“I knew about (John) Stockton and (Karl) Malone. Of course I’d watch Deron Williams battle Kobe (Bryant) and the Lakers in the playoffs. I know it is a great organization. Coach (Jerry) Sloan and these guys had a tremendous amount of success in the past.”
The Jazz also own the No. 23 pick in the first round and the No. 5 pick (35th overall) in the second round, so Lindsey plans to meet with as many players as possible.
James Young, another possible lottery pick out of Kentucky, said he had a good meeting with the Jazz this week.
“It was all about me personally, how I grew up, who I grew up around, stuff like that,” Young said.
Lindsey reiterated the importance of those interviews.
“There have been certain standards about the way players need to comport themselves within the organization and the community,” Lindsey said. “Frankly, that is something I believe in coming from Houston and San Antonio. We hope to adhere to those values. To be a Utah Jazz basketball player is very unique in so many ways.”
Creighton forward Doug McDermott, the national player of the year, and Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart are other players among the potential lottery picks scheduled to meet with the Jazz this week.
Smart said he is unfamiliar with the culture in Utah, while McDermott has heard nothing but good things from Jazz restricted free agent Gordon Hayward (they share an agent) and former Creighton and Jazz sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
“I’ve always liked the Jazz,” said McDermott, who measured in at 6 foot 6, 2 inches shorter than his listed height. “I heard Salt Lake City is a great place. Kyle Korver loved it out there. They are making changes right how, but they are definitely a team I would like to play for.”
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